Education plays an important role in one’s future. Regardless of how you learn something, as long as you are learning something, and that knowledge is usable, that is the end goal. That being said, Sri Lanka’s education system is far from perfect. This is where Akshika Wijesundara wants to shake things up with the Sustainable Education Foundation.
While carrying out his studies at the University of Moratuwa, Akshika was also a Google student ambassador. During that time, Akshika carried out a number of workshops across universities in Sri Lanka. The goal here was to improve the knowledge of students. Akshika wasn’t alone. He sought the assistance and aid of his fellow Google student ambassadors as well.
Following his tenure with Google, Akshika wanted to do more. Thus, he conceptualized a new platform. One that would educate Sri Lanka and aim to rectify any flaws in the current education system. Akshika called it the “Sustainable Education Foundation”, more fondly referred to as the SEF.
Akshika enlisted the help of a few of his friends and conduct free workshops for students from Universities, both state and private in Sri Lanka. Apart from his friends, Akshika also got support from people such as Dinal Kurukulasooriya, Heminda Jayaweera, Yasiru Kassapa, Anjana Wijekoon and Shenal Senerath, Bhagya Nirmaan Silva and Ramindu Sanka Deshapriya. They all volunteered to conduct sessions and help solidify the Sustainable Education Foundation. As things progressed, they were joined by Buwaneka De Silva, Hasitha Senevirathne and Charith Samarakoon.
As you can probably assume, running a project of this nature would not be possible without funding. But surprisingly, Akshika and his team based the Sustainable Education Foundation on a zero-budget platform. This was largely thanks to the cooperation received from the volunteer speakers and partners. Akshika explained that it was “solely built on the goodwill for the betterment of the student population of Sri Lanka”.
Unlike the somewhat Neanderthal approach of packing together hordes of students as far as the eye could see and then feeding them tutorials and exam questions, the Sustainable Education Foundation operated in a more technologically refined manner. Their objective is to share knowledge without any boundaries. As such, they carry out webinars via electronic media carried out by highly qualified experts and professionals.
Currently, the Sustainable Education Foundation caters towards both state and private university students. But Akshika is determined to adopt the platform to school teachers and students as well. They also use social media to spread awareness of the Sustainable Education Foundation and keep a record of their progress with those involved with the platform.
The Sustainable Education Foundation runs a number of programs to foster education. Namely, these are OneLive, the Mentor Program, and the School/University Outreach Program. We decided to delve deeper into these three to see exactly what they are.
OneLive is essentially an interactive webinar series carried out every weekend by means of the SEF Facebook page. Here, experts from various different fields from around world would carry out sessions to students. Akshika explained that one of the primary goals of the Sustainable Education Foundation carrying out these sessions is to connect Sri Lankans all over the world to a single platform. Thus, they can share their knowledge with students in Sri Lanka. The session would be like the one below
A typical OneLive session would include topics such as technology, astronomy, entrepreneurship, and Innovation. Because these are webinars, there is always a risk of the video stream being choppy or unclear due to internet connectivity issues. In order to alleviate this, the team first carry out a test session with the speaker via a private Facebook group. The speaker is evaluated by the team and feedback is given about the session.
Currently, still in the pilot phase, the Mentor Program kicked off when Akshika and his team members conducted mentoring for Google Summer of Code. Here, students were paired with those who are interested in participating in GSOC with past mentors and participants.
The program runs for 3 months with a minimum of 12 interactions between the mentor and student. The student is encouraged to blog or create a vlog about their experience as well. They are also required to act as a mentor in four years. This ensures that the mentor program is sustainable.
In terms of mentors, the team looks for individuals who have excelled in their specific fields. As such, their primary target for mentors is Ph.D. students, doctors, and industry experts.
Last but not least, the outreach program is where the team organizes programs based on the requests through student ambassadors. Apart from that, individual requests from universities and schools are also attended to as well.
“Thus far, all the projects initiated by Akshika and his team have been successful,” says Akshika and his team. They’ve all gotten positive feedback and any criticism that they receive is turned into a lesson learned exercise where they learn what they did wrong and rectify it.
Setting up the Sustainable Education Foundation was by no means an easy task. “Finding a group of people with the same interests and passion is a challenging task”, Akshika explained. As such, finding volunteers to support their cause was the primary challenge they faced.
Probably the largest, and currently one that they still face is the challenge of continuing the operations of the SEF without any funding. To this Akshika explained that “the cooperation of our volunteers and sponsors for our events have been a great relief for us to overcome this challenge, and they should be remembered with gratitude”.
The initial step of a project is always the hardest. It was the same with the Sustainable Education Foundation as well. But in time, the team gained a wealth of knowledge and with a dedicated team, the SEF pushed through to overcome all obstacles in their way.
“If there is something our journey thus far has taught us, it is to find the right people and to empower them” Akshika explained. It is all about the team and having the right people who would take everything to the next level.
The Sustainable Education Foundation has been a part of a number of projects. These range from Google Summer of Code (GSOC) sessions to public conferences, the School/University outreach programmes, and a number of student ambassador programs as well.
In April 2017, they also partnered up with SurfEdge. At the time, SurfEdge was working on Gurupaara which was directly aimed at disrupting the traditional education system. According to Akshika, their goal was to create videos with the assistance of university undergraduates, which would help students who were sitting for the GCE A/L examination.
Akshika found it best for both parties to join forces and work on a collaboration to contribute towards the project. The project was quite successful and they were able to launch a series of video clips with tips and advice for A/L students.
Akshika emphasized that the Sustainable Education Foundation is always on the lookout for new partners. If a person likes to share his knowledge and experience with the student community, he/she can partner with them to conduct OneLive sessions, workshops or even blog articles.
If an organization or an individual is willing to provide financial support or scholarships for students, they too can partner with the Sustainable Education Foundation. Those with similar interests can join as volunteers. Experts in a specific field can partner with the team as advisors
As such, the Sustainable Education Foundation has partnered with the likes of Rotaract Sri Lanka and Maldives – District 3220. Where they joined forces to create a series of OneLive (Facebook Live Q n A sessions) inviting global youth leaders.
The team has also partnered with Autochatic, a French-based Sri Lanka startup who has provided the Sustainable Education Foundation with a free chatbot facility to support their operations. Further, they’ve established partnerships with Thuru, Venture Frontier Lanka, AIESEC Colombo North, AIESEC in the University of Colombo, IEEE INSL and the Royal College Astronomy society.
All things considered, the efforts of Akshika and his team at the Sustainable Education Foundation are to be commended. They’ve achieved all this with little to no funding and a host of volunteers ever willing to lend a heart and a hand to help those in need. If you are interested in helping the Sustainable Education Foundation or you would like to get in touch with them, you can do so by visiting their website or their Facebook page.
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Venture Frontier Lanka is bringing experts in entrepreneurship from around the country to cities throughout Sri Lanka to train local entrepreneurs to think differently about the ventures they will start.
Venture Frontier Lanka is bringing experts in entrepreneurship from around the country to cities throughout Sri Lanka to train local entrepreneurs to think differently about the ventures they will start. A caravan stop consists of different sessions about creating unique ideas for startup ventures and strategies for financing those ideas.
Come join the sessions on the 19th of December, starting with 2 pm at Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology.
The event is free of charge! REGISTRATION is mandatory for this event
(Wednesday) 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
SLIIT, New Kandy Road, Malabe
Early Bird till the 16th of Dec: 20% discount Likuid Members: 20% discount Female/Social Entrepreneurs (Locals Only): 50% discount Join for a one day workshop where we unchain the collective wisdom and creativity
Early Bird till the 16th of Dec: 20% discount
Likuid Members: 20% discount
Female/Social Entrepreneurs (Locals Only): 50% discount
Join for a one day workshop where we unchain the collective wisdom and creativity to help each other having a more productive digital nomad new year and build better cooperations for teamwork.
During this peer to peer learning session you can share your experiences to help others and learn from other practitioners. Together, dive into the most painful problems and brainstorm on solutions. It’s for you if you resonate with some of these questions:
How do I integrate work, life and travel?
How do I keep motivated to achieve?
How do I keep engaged with a client?
How do I manage my time and energy?
How do I get clients?
How do I find people to collaborate with?
How to deal with time differences?
How can I make human interactions with slack profiles?
How to set realistic goals in constantly changing environment?
What are the best tools & methods for productivity?
What’s the secret of aligned teams?
What are the best skills for a digital nomad?
ABOUT THE METHOD:
“We create space for meaningful conversations, experimental and peer to peer learning. Nothing frontal, no preaching. But space for your very unique questions.”
+ Full-day mentored learning program
+ Breakfast on the roof
+ BBQ lunch on the roof
+ Goodie bags & Take-home handbooks
+ Post-event networking
ABOUT THE HOST:
Kitti is a digital nomad herself and a marketing consultant for innovative companies and early stage startups. She is a conversation ambassador for tedxdanubia, hosted meaningful conversations on ideas worth spreading. In the past years she worked in self organized teams, practiced facilitation, joined peer to peer networks, decentralized teams and cocreated a collective of freelancers. She is a cofounder of a sustainability startup that just secured its first round of investment. Worked as a mentor for many startups, and in the meantime she visited more than 15 countries.
Are you a Sri Lankan female entrepreneur or a local social business? Reach out for your discounted tickets!
PRICE IN SRI LANKAN RUPEES:
Regular: LKR 5000
Early Bird till 16th of Dec: LKR 4000
Likuid Members: LKR 4000
Female/Social Entrepreneurs (Locals Only): LKR 2500
(Saturday) 8:30 am - 5:30 pm
5 Charles Place 00300 Colombo, Sri Lanka
Karthik ( Associate Director, DTCC & Co-organiser of Hyperledger Chennai Meetup) will be here for the 2nd Hyperledger meetup. He will share his experience with Hyperledger and Business application of Blockchain
Karthik ( Associate Director, DTCC & Co-organiser of Hyperledger Chennai Meetup) will be here for the 2nd Hyperledger meetup.
He will share his experience with Hyperledger and Business application of Blockchain technologies.
1. Work with Hyperledger Fabric and Explorer.
2. Business use case with Hyperledger Blockchain Framework
3. Q&A session
This is a Free session. Register here
(Friday) 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Startup X Foundry
07, Charles Place, Colombo 03, Colombo
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